The fact remains, however, that old fashioned newsletters sent out via the U.S. Mail are arguably the most effective tool that an incumbent has to both inform his constituents of his or her accomplishments and to keep their name recognition high in order to be reelected. All paid for by you, the U.S. taxpayer. The formal name for this method of communicating is called “franking” and the Committee on House Administration has a few pages devoted to explaining it.
Last night, Rep. Culberson sent out an SOS, saying that Speaker Pelosi was censoring his newsletter by requiring him to change a slogan and delete a direct quote from President Obama. Here is an example:
Congressmen r forbidden to call Dems “liberal”; cannot call cap & trade “cap & tax” = I can’t speak my mind in my own newsletter to CD7=1984
Then he runs a “test” to see if Twitterverse will rise up:
R u more devoted to sunlight/freedom of speech/debate, or to liberalism? Will Twitterverse rise up agnst censorship by top US gov’t leaders?
Where I agree with Pelosi is that the Franked District Newsletters shouldn’t be allowed to venture into the realm of campaign literature. The intent behind these are as informative tools provided to district residents keeping them up to date on the issues of the day facing Congress. Culberson’s not wrong to view carbon exchanges as ‘Cap n’ Tax’ plans, and as a matter of fact I agree with him, but that doesn’t mean that language of that type has any business appearing on a franked newsletter. Right message, wrong forum.
This morning, Ed Hubbard, candidate for Chair of the Harris County Republican Party, enters the fray, calling on the HCRP to get behind Rep. Culberson and use their newly formed Rapid Response Team and social networking resources to swamp Speaker Pelosi’s office about this matter.
At the very least, for now we must do what Congressman Culberson asked us to do in his last message: “Bombard Pelosi & House leadership; let the sun shine in; post all bills online for 72 hrs bf vote, open debate/amendments & end censorship!” To broadcast this message, I ask the current leadership team of the HCRP at Richmond Avenue to use the fruits from the new social-networking training programs, the new Rapid Response program, and the party email system, not to toot your own horn, but to alert Republicans to Culberson’s plight and how to respond. To Republican bloggers and talk-show hosts, flood the airwaves with Culberson’s distress call, and demand the Speaker to stop. To the Tea Partiers, 9/12 organizers and other grassroots conservatives, make your voices heard on this issue.
I hate to tell Mr. Hubbard this, but apparently the chair of the Rapid Response Team doesn’t appear unless I criticize their leadership. Then he is all over it. So, Mr. Hubbard might wish to turn somewhere else for help.
Who is correct here? Rep. Culberson and Mr. Hubbard or Mr. Crow? After reading the Tweets from Rep. Culberson and then reading the House Franking Manual, I’d have to say that Mr. Crow is correct. From page 7 in the manual (page 16 in the pdf), we find this:
4a. Examples of Non-Frankable Items
-Political and Partisan References (See paragraphs 7, 17)
–Materials (i.e., photos, logos, slogans) used in campaign literature as well as specific campaign pledges or promises are not frankable.
Clearly, Cap-n-Tax is a slogan being used by Republicans to stop a specific piece of legislation. Does Rep. Culberson have a case that President Obama’s quote should be allowed? Of course. And does he have a case that Speaker Pelosi can be heavy handed? Of course.
But sending out blatant campaign slogans on the taxpayer dime? Nope.
UPDATE: There has been a sighting of the HCRP’s Richard Dillon! About an hour ago, this appeared on Facebook:
Please visit John Culberson’s FB page http://tinyurl.com/l8llyd #tcot , contact Pelosi (202) 225-0100 & let her know ur thoughts #franking